Asia, Countries, Europe

Flip-floppin’ Georgia statues and others

And I’m prompted my old friend, Gaelic Scotland’s answer to Simon Reeve, Anna Kennedy, to probe flip-floppin’ Georgia statues.

I admit I didn’t know about The Sea Slippers in Batumi or any of the other funky statues in the Asian country.

It’s not something George Zurabashvili or I got around to.

When he invited me over to his gaffe, the Georgian Embassy in Dublin.

We were too busy talking about Georgian wine, the oldest in the world, and rugby.

And if I could get an Irish delegation out to the country.

Platforms for success

Her arm must be getting sore: The Statue of Liberty

But statues while usually not a sole reason for visiting a destination are often one of the must-do excusions…

The Statue of Liberty in New York, Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Anne Frank in Amsterdam, Nelson’s Column in London, Jim Larkin in Dublin,. or the best of all, Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh.

That Georgia has such a funky statue shouldn’t come as too much surprise.

As countries which were long suppressed by Soviet Union have had an explosion of architectural expression since the break-up of the USSR.

Czech out Czerny

Map it out: The Peeing Pragueites

Now I love an Astronomical Clock as much as the next person who takes the most common selfie in Prague.

Although confession time here I do prefer the Beer Astronomical Clock in Zatec.

But if statues give you a historical shorthand for a city then Prague shows its many wonderful, modern, Communist and post-Communist faces.

Whether it’s peeing statues outside the Franz Kafka Museum (he would have approved), hanging umbrella men or the crawling babies up the Zivkov TV tower.

Or Czech patriarch King Charles IV or King Wenceslas.

Though truth be known, it’s hard to top climbing babies and peeing Pragueites.

Slovaks too

Cumil ye faithful: Man at Work in Bratislava

And in a nod too to my pal Katarina who flies the flag for the Czechs but who was born under the banner of neighbours of Slovakia

Cumil, the tin-helmeted bronze sculpture, who emerges from a mancover. 

A road sign warns you as reckless drivers have chopped his head off before!

Bosnian Bruce

G’Day Bruce: In Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Now our Balkan friends have some unusual icons.

Remembering that British slapstick comedian Norman Wisdom is a national hero.

In Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina when you get out of Medjugorje where there’s something about Mary, it’s Bruce Lee.

Bruce became a national hero through the black market for video cassettes. 

A kick in the ribs for Marshall Tito there.

Alexander’s Great Mate

Something fishy: In Skopje, North Macedonia

Alexander, of course, is a great icon the world over.

But his status is so high in south-east Europe that the Greeks tried to stop North Macedonia getting into the UN because they erected a statue to him in Skopje.

Well, we’ll leave the squabbling to these neighbours and instead celebrate Grozdanka Kanikova’s erection (stop it!).

It is in fact a Fish which seems to have three legs and appropriately stands outside the Olympic Swimming Pool.

Earth-shattering Budapest

Did the Earth move for you? Man Emerging From The Earth, Budapest

And sometimes I (and others) wish the ground would just swallow me up.

In a twist on that the Hungarians give us a giant man emerging from the earth as part of an arts festival.

And so put your preconceptions behind about the old East.

And reflect instead on the statues around us in the UK.

Better flip-floppin’ Georgia statues and others than some old relics of Empire.

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland

The summertime is coming

The summertime is coming and the trees are softly blooming. And the wild mountain Jim rolls around the blooming heather.

I’d rather be rolling around the blooming beach though I’ll settle for my front garden, North Berwick, until I get back out to the Caribbean.

But to mark the sun coming out, although I might jinx it, here’s some summer sizzlers to lift your Rainy Days and Songdays.

I remember that summer

And my summer girl in her autumn years

Summer in Dublin, Bagatelle: And this was the soundtrack of 1980 which is where he would always spend my summer.

I can’t remember the Liffey stinking like Hell but I was one of those young people looking so well on Grafton Street in Dublin.

Rock’n’roll never forgets, nor us, and singer Liam Reilly who was taken from us last year will always be a sound of our Dubliners summer.

It’s summer Irie

Irie Barbados: With Jevan and Donna

Money Well Spent, Biggie Irie: It’s the last day of Crop Over and I still have room for Bacchanal.

The Crop Over carnival, to be fair, lasts all summer and is the only thing Bajans devote their attentions to.

California, the best trip

Sloop John B, The Beach Boys: And it may have been the worst trip Brian Wilson ever went on.

But visiting SoCal, Southern California, and being entertained by the Boys, Snoop Dogg et al, was the best trip I’ve ever been on.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Here comes the Sun, The Beatles: And The Beatles light up any summer.

Whether in Liverpool or Hamburg where I’ve followed in the Fab Four’s footsteps and I suggest you do the same.

Espana por favor

Going for a walk in Tenerife

Y Viva Espana, Sylvia: And Swede Sylvia’s song falls into the summer anthem category along again with Typically Tropical’s We’re Going To Barbados.

And, of course, it’s Britons and Irish go-to summer hotspot and ours too.

All of which brings us back to el hobby horse: why are the Canaries, off the coast of Africa not a special case.

After all those Tenerife trails won’t walk themselves.

So, seeing the summertime is coming then we should all blooming get out in the sun and sing and dance.

America, Countries, Ireland, Music

Shay Healy 1943-2021

We shared a fondness for Eurovision and Country music although he typically was a legend of both, rather than just an observer like me.

Shay was the star columnist in the award-winning Weekend lifestyle section of the Irish Daily Mail which I edited for five years.

His life was, of course, one well lived and any time in his presence was time well spent as Shay, like all Dubliners, was a natural storyteller.

Prize guy: With his IFTA Lifetime Achievement Award. www.ifta.ie

The hand that life deals us all had been unkind though to Shay in his latter years after he lost his beloved wife Dee Dee.

And he contracted MS which frustrated him as he could struggle to articulate himself.

Me doin’ my Nashville thang

All of which made his Irish Daily Mail column so much more precious.

As a vehicle to talk self-deprecatingly about his own condition and his life in music in general.

Our year: Shay wrote What’s Another Year for Johnny Logan

Music gave Shay the opportunity to travel and to sample life in another country when he went off to live in Nashville.

And it was while in Music City that he brushed shoulders with the Father of Rock’n’roll himself, Chuck Berry.

Shay regaled the tale in his own inimitable way recalling how he had found himself back stage at a Chuck concert.

Pals: Shay wrote for Billy Connolly

He had been given clearance to approach the great man and knocked on his dressing room door.

Beckoned in he found Chuck with a blonde sitting on his lap.

Chuck looked up with a big smile on his face and said; ‘You get two questions’.

Roll over Chuck Berry

To which a stunned Shay said: ‘Are you joking?’

And Chuck shot back: ‘One question left.’

There will be laughs aplenty and the best music tonight in Heaven.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – The Royal Canal and other Irish landmarks

Now the screw was peeping, as the lag lay sleeping. Dreaming about his girl Sal. And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle. All along the banks of the Royal Canal The Auld Triangle, The Dubliners

Luke Kelly drolled that ‘in the female prison there are 75 women and among them I wish I did dwell, and that auld triangle could go jingle-jangle all along the banks of the Royal Canal.’

And if you know this song, penned by Brendan Behan (and if you don’t then you’ve been missing out) you’ll walk along the Royal Canal in the north of Dublin singing it aloud.

Or if you’re cycling too as I have done, all the time hoping that the broken bottles wouldn’t puncture my tyres.

The Beardie Boys: The Dubliners

That was then, and this is now, and the announcement of the €12m scenic 130km Royal Canal Greenway is to be welcomed.

If you do the lot you’ll have chalked off 90 bridges, 30 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts.

And take in Co. Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford.

So as a preamble let’s get on with our Rainy Days and Songdays six of the best songs with Irish landmarks.

What a Corker!

Jim and Alan at the Phil Lynott statue in Dublin

As I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains, I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’. I first produced my pistol, and then produced my rapier. I said ‘stand and deliver, or the devil he may take ye Whiskey in the Jar, Thin Lizzy 

Musha rain, dum a doo, dum a da.

The Cork and Kerry Mountains have always held a special affection for me as the first travel assignment when a cub reporter in Reading.

Going over said mountains in our Citroen cars was not helped by a bout of seasickness going over on the Swansea-Cork ferry.

But nothing that the local tipple, Murphy’s Stout and the craic didn’t put right.

Low lie those fields

Those low-lying fields: Athenry

Low lie the Fields of Athenry, where once we watched the small birds fly. Our love was on the wing. We had dreams and songs to sing. It’s so lonely round the Fields of Athenry  – Fields of Athenry, The High Kings

Lowing, or maybe braying, around those Fields of Athenry were our four donkeys which came with the rented cottage.

I can’t remember what la famiglia called the three others but mine was Oaty as in Donkey Oaty!

I was maybe just tilting at windmills.

And as for stealing Trevelyan’s corn… we just bought some from the Centra for the donkeys.

The Band is back together

Neat little town they call Belfast

 In a neat little town they call Belfast, apprentice to tradeI was bound…, a sad misfortune came over me which caused me to stray from the land, far away from my friends and relations, betrayed by the Black Velvet Band Black Velvet Band, Peaky Blinders

It was more good fortune that came over me… to take me away from my friends and relations to the States after university.

And work, no not on the Black Velvet Band’s pitch, Broadway, but Boston where I inevitably served tables at an Irish pub.

Where every night among the most requested songs was Black Velvet Band.

And yes, of course, like our gullible hero of the song ‘many an hour’s sweet happiness I spent I spent in this neat little town Belfast.

As for a black velvet band, or any colour for that matter, try as I may I never persuaded one… i wonder if she’ll be there when I return.

Where the Dark Mourne sweeps…

London’s got nothing on this

Oh Mary this London’s a wonderful sight with people here working by day and by night, they don’t sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat. But there’s gangs of them dogging for gold in the street. At least when I asked them that’s what I was told so I just took a hand at this diggin’ for gold. But for all that I found there I might as well be in the place where the Dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea Mountains o’ Mourne, Don McLean

Mourne Mountains, Co. Down: It’s always a thrill to see the Mountains of Mourne, my Dear Old Mum’s home province, when driving either north or south.

Mountains of Mourne this sweeping range, has a special place in our hearts as the lullaby I would sing to Daddy’s Little Girl.

It was round by Brockagh’s corner

Harkin’s Bar, Donegal

 It was down by Brockagh Corner one morning I did stray, I met a fellow rebel and this to me did say, he had orders from our captain to assemble at Dunbar. But how were we to get there without a car The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Beockagh, Co. Donegal: And still on lullabies this gentle little ditty about the Irish War of Independence is an alternative to nursery rhymes.

If your mother is from Nationalistic north-west Donegal that is.

Well it got me through childhood… give three cheers to the Teasy and Johnson’s Motor Car.

Meeting of minds in Wicklow

Moore Wicklow please

Sweet vale of Avoca! How calm could I rest. In thy bosom of shade with the friends I love best. Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease. And thy hearts, like thy waters, be mingled on peace. The Meetings of the Waters, John McCormack

And my beloved old homestead of Co. Wicklow and its poet laureate, Thomas Moore.

The Meetings is a family favourite, going back to the days when my Donegal Granny and Grandpa honeymooned here.

We would often return there in our Thirteen Years in Ireland on family day trips.

And skim stones which can be more of a danger sport than you might imagine.

Particularly if you’re that young boy on the other side of the bank who ducks just as a stone is jumping up out of the water.

Still, I did get a 12!

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Go! Monopoly around the world

We may never know why Vincent Van Gogh lost his ear, though here is a fine crime fiction on the subject, but who is to say it wasn’t after a row about Monopoly?

Our pals at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam are the latest to join the Monopoly club.

With the release of their own Vincent board game for Christmas.

Becoming one of hundreds of Monopolys around the world.

With at the latest count, the game being licensed in 103 countries and printed in more than 37 languages.

The Van Gogh version substitutes the Great Man’s art for the traditional streets.

Just painting

While among the pieces naturally is a paint tube though perhaps tastefully no ear.

Monopoly for most of us is as much part of Christmas as Santa, who often brought it fir our stockings, and Christmas turkey.

But it was also brought out when friends came over, or relatives, from home or abroad.

And this was when it got really exciting to see the names of their streets and public transport.

O’Monopoly

So when my Irish relatives got their Dublin board out it had such names as O’Connell Street, Shrewsbury Street in Ballsbridge where I got to stay, and the Busaras on it.

It was very much a point of honour that your country had its own Monopoly.

It was a sign that you were not under the English yolk.

Although when you did get down to London when you were older you didn’t feel such a tourist as you ambled along the Strand, Pall Mall and Fleet Street.

Big Appley

Most spectacular of all was the New York edition where you could say you owned Broadway.

All us poor Scots had to dream of was buying Mayfair, Park Lane or Old Kent Road.

Until the manufacturers stumbled on the rather obvious idea of giving us all what we wanted.

McNopoly

And so we got Edinburgh, and the Royal Mile, Princes Street, the two football stadiums, Easter Road and Tynecastle Park and the rugby ground, Murrayfield.

Now, of course there are now football clubs, film and TV franchises Monopoly merchandise.

D’Ohpoly

In fact you name it and Monopoly have probably adapted it to your needs.

And so I have in my attic a Royal Caribbean cruise game as well as a Simpsons game.

From my travels in Europe and in Orlando.

Of course Monopoly, while having a deeply suspicious Property speculation message in its origins back in 1935, has really become a vehicle for imagination.

And discovering about foreign destinations…

By plane, ship, car… or my personal favourite, a wee Scottie dog.

Countries, Culture, Europe

The Joyce of Trieste

Dublin’s most famous son (move aside Bono) famously chronicled a day in the life of an everyman in the fair city.

But he, of course, fell out with its burghers and went into exile in mainland Europe, falling in love with Trieste.

Where he is still remembered with affection as much as in his home city.

Mediterranean Man: Joyce in Trieste

So much so that they erected a statue to the Great Man there too while for a step by step guide of Joyce’s Trieste check out this site.

And dander over to the Joyce Museum in the famous old town to get up close and personal.

Of course the best place to channel your inner Joyce at the Cafe Stella Polare.

Joyce’s bolthole

Be sure you take your pen and pad for your Ulysses (or write it on your iPad).

While you should also check out the titular Caffe James Joyce.

So what is it about Trieste and coffee?

Well, it was only the gateway from the East Indies and the Middle East to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Say again.

Well, Trieste was a Habsburg port back for centuries before the empire broke up after the First World War.

Which means Naval Captain Von Trapp’s town was actually an Italian and that was key to him getting out of Nazi Austria.

Which you know already from my Austrian travels but here’s a reminder.

Anyhoos Trieste is the jewel of the Friulia Venezia Giulia whose joys I have been enjoying, from mountain to woods to sea in the Virtual Italian Zoom Week.

I’ll be bringing you more in tomorrow’s Hungry and Thursday and all your favourite features.

MEET YOU IN THE CAFE

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Ireland, the friendliest place in Europe

Forget about that ridiculous ubiquitous Ed Sheeran,, Country star Steve Earle’s Galway Girl is the definitive tribute.

Some of my earliest longings and fumblings were for Galway girls, on holiday to a Salthill mobile home park.

Of course, in the late 70s and early 80s, the tradition for awkward, gawky Glaswegians was to sit in the corner and well, just gawk at the girls.

The Salthill Strand

Galway, this year’s European Capital of Culture, tops a Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards list of favourite cities.

And they’ll just love beating Dublin into second place.

The two Irish cities push the jewel of the Med, Valletta, into third.

The Maltese city boasts, for me, the most gorgeous harbour in the world.

And memories… I bent down there to tie my shoelaces 26 years ago, Miss F shouted Yes and one year later became the Indomitable Mrs M.

While my readopted city of Edinburgh also makes it onto the list at No.7 and the epic Athens at No.9.

Green Mickey

Ears to you, Mickey

Maybe y’all missed No Coal Burning Mickey, the eco-friendly alternative to Steamboat Willie, but Da Mouse is right on point with cleaning up the planet.

Mickey has come out on top of an Uswitch eco-friendly poll of the leading tourist spots around the world.

Who knew? Well, you do now.

Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney in Florida boasts a 270-acre 50+megawatt solar facility which operates enough sun to operate two Disney parks.

The solar facility has the power to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 52,000 metric tons.

Which is equivalent to removing 9,300 cars from the road each year.

Of course the warmest thing you can get at Magic Kingdom is a Mickey hug. And here’s to when we can all repeat this.

And, of course, his is a hug that wraps around the world, from Florida to California, to Paris, to Hong Kong.

All our old faves are on the poll, Niagara Falls, our pals at Universal, Universal Studios Orlando, Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld Orlando.

And the others we’ll get round to when we…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Countries, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Ryanair’s a homer’s odyssey in Ireland

Ryanair has always retained its Irish quirkinesses on its way to conquering the world as the major low-fares airline.

Its harp, its name after founder Tony Ryan and its home passengers saying rosaries. playing the lottery and clapping on arrival.

Some unpronounceable name below

And they never forget where they came from and want us to visit, offering seven days in Cork, £17.23pp return, Monday, September 28-Monday, October 5.

Five days to Shannon, Sunday, October 11-Friday, October 16. down from £24.23 and five days in Dublin, Sunday, October 11-Friday, October 16. See terms, conditions.

Another great aspect of Ryanlife is introducing you to places you’d never heard of to keep the costs down.

Ergo the sale which offered among others, Lublin 106 miles south-east of Warsaw then I’ll let you know of the next i e.

They were offering €9.99 one-way in your Ryanair September sale. It ended midnight last night, Tuesday, September 15.

More Aer time

This is your captain speaking

And Ireland’s national airline carrier Aer Lingus want to fly us away too… for the price of a night out.

With prices from €29.99 they’ll whisk you away to Athens, Alghero and Alicante.

Now that’s the As I’ll give you a ‘V’ as in Verona and let you run through the other letters.

The offers end variously between September 29 and 30.

Lost in France

Everything you need

I may paint a picture of a Dickensian upbringing but, in truth, my Dear Old Mum did spoil me as the baby of the family.

And I’ll forever be grateful for everything she, and my Dad, did for me, including giving me my wings.

And allowing me to go off on a post-school camping trip to France, at the sane time my aunt stopped my cousin going.

Chic: On the French Riviera

All of which pricked a lifelong interest for Cannes and the French Riviera.

It all feels just now like being a schoolboy all over again as we wait for permission to travel abroad.

I’m still smarting that my Normandy and Monet trip has been deferred but it has merely whetted my appetite for France.

And here’s one resort too look forward to that is pure heaven.

My room (or floor)

Evian Resort in Evian-les-Bains, has the mineral H2O, of course, and the wellness centre with all those lovely spells.

But it also has family fun, sporting activities and camps, and even opera.

Families booking into the 5* Evian Resort (with free stay for under-13s) can also avail of their Le Fabuleux Jardin rooms.

And there is also a flexible 24-hour cancellation policy.

And the view is all mine too

Evian also have a Freedom offer, promising 20% discounts on accommodation from €264 per night to £238 per night for Hotel Royal.

And from €152|£141 at Hotel Ermitage.

And here’s an Ibiza beezer

It’s always sunny

My Dear Old Mum has always been a sun worshiper which is why one year she left my Dad and brothers at home while we went off to Ibiza.

Which is how I grew to love the Balearic Islands.

And you’ll always be outside

7 Pines Kempinski has new 2021 early booking offers, a new Villa experience and a Pershing Yacht Experience package.

The table is set

There is 20% off their 2021 daily rate (starting from €300 per night) as well as a Long Stay Offer with 25% off for stays of eight nights or more.

Oh Mexico

As James Taylor sang to us in the RDS in Dublin ‘it sounds so simple I just got to go, the sun’s so hot I forgot to go home, I guess I’ll have to go now.’

And particularly as my pals at Caribtours/email escapes@caribtours/ are offering a third off seven nights at the Unico 20N 87W Hotel Riviera Maya.

From €2,059pp sharing an Alcoba room on an all-inclusive basis.

Travel 19 December 2020-31 October 2021. From price based on 17 June 2021 departure with British Airways via London Gatwick.

Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Hey Willie, I’m On the Road Again

On the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again, the life I love is makin’ music with the my friends, and I can’t get wait to get on the road again.

Willie Nelson

And when I was asked by woman-of-many-trades (she asked me to write this) Aileen Eglington to pick my song for her Destinations Anywhere show on Dublin South FM I plumped for Willie Nelson’s classic to the Open Road.

And so continuing my top roads I’ve been on (or hope to trudge) which included the Appian Way, Rome. Beale Street, Memphis, The King’s Highway in Jordan, the Royal Mile, Edinburgh and Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem On the Road again… I give you five more.

The arc of angels

arche de triumph
There’s a golden sun. Photo by TravelingTart on Pexels.com

Avenue des Champs-Elysees, Paris: And, yes, you are taking your life into your own hands when you cross the road here.

The Arc de Triumph with its record of French victories is, of course, the centrepiece although there hasn’t been an inscription on it for many a year. Either in war or the Tour de France which passes through it. See https://en.parisinfo.com.

Aspiring Dublin

O’Connell Street, Dublin: And if you like your streets lined with historical statues then this is for you.

At one end is the Liberartor Daniel O’Connell, with bullet holes from the Easter Rising, and at the other ‘The King of Ireland’ Charles Stewart Parnell. There’s the modern-day Centennial Spire but my favourite is the statue of workers’ hero Jim Larkin. See http://www.visitdublin.com.

The long, long road

Yonge Street, Toronto: And why let the facts get in the way of a good story. The Guinness Book of Records tagged it as the longest in the world until it became clear that they were conflating the Downtown Street with Ontario Highway 11 to make it 1,896kms.

When it’s actually 56kms long. And this being Toronto it’s cleaner, safer and with a laid-back vibe than New York which it is often unfavourably compared to. See http://www.seetoronto.com and Canadian high.

It’s a Shambles

The Shambles, York, England: The Old York, as it’s never called, has something the New York has.

This has overhanging timber-framed buildings that date from the 14th century. And if you like your trains there’s also the National Railway Museum. See https://www.visityork.org.

A night on Der Town

Beatles history in Hamburg

And if it’s good enough for the Beatles then…

This is where the Beatles grew up and George Harrison got his first taste for mud-wrestling Germans. It’s the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. And let Stefanie Hempell who runs the best music tour you’ll find.

See http://www.hamburg.com http://www.hempels-musictour.de/en/ and Hamburgers and ships and The Beatles in Hamburg – With Stefanie Hempel and Why German trains always run on time.